Stefan Antonijevic in action for Valparaiso University in 2011. | Photo credit: valpoathletics.com
The path toward achieving a dream isn’t always clear-cut. In January, Stefan Antonijevic became the first ever player from Valparaiso University to be drafted into Major League Soccer when Sporting Kansas City used the 43rd pick in the MLS Supplemental Draft to acquire the 2011 Horizon League Defensive player of the year.
Unfortunately for Antonijevic, SKC decided they already had enough depth in defense and opted against offering the former Valparaiso University defender a place on the team. In fairness, SKC is one of the most talented teams in the league and has a perfect record to show for it so far this season.
“Stefan gets judged because of his size. He’s six to seven feet and not as big as everyone else,” said VU Men’s Soccer Head Coach Mike Avery. “He was the last cut at Sporting Kansas City, so that was disappointing. But it’s no insult to him. They are arguably the best team in the league, at least so far this season, and have two really good young central defenders.”
Sporting Kansas City’s defense has been a significant reason for their unbeaten record, as the league leaders have conceded just two goals in seven matches, meaning breaking into a defense like that would have been a tall order for rookie. As a result, Antonijevic was granted the opportunity to pursue an MLS contract elsewhere.
Antonijevic (far left) celebrates with the rest of the U-20 squad after winning the 2008 USL Super-20 title. | Photo credit: United Soccer Leagues
And Antonijevic is working on doing just that. Last month, the Serbian defender began training with the Chicago Fire as a guest player. Continue reading
Assistant coaches Mike Matkovich and Leo Percovich answer the media’s questions after the Chicago Fire’s 1-1 draw against the Houston Dynamo at Toyota Park. The match was called off in the 65th minute due to lightening. Both coaches had some good things to say and if you’ve never heard Leo’s accent, I would say this video is a must-watch.
Can Dominic haunt his old club again? | Photo credit: mlssoccer.com
Somehow MLS schedulers have seen fit to fail to give Houston and Chicago any matches for the first month of the season. Well, not any…both teams have played three. While apologists for MLS quirks in this realm will cite working out the kinks of the new uneven schedule or the even lamer explanation, traveling distance, there really is no excuse for both of these teams in devoted markets to have this few matches played. Back-to-back bye weeks are utterly ridiculous. No matter the grumblings, there’s nothing to be done about it but look forward to match number four.
Houston come into Chicago on Sunday having won two and lost one, the memory of that loss has probably faded over the last two weeks so there’s little hope that that result will be weighing on the minds of Dynamo players. Continue reading
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As frustrating as it may be to do so, take a minute and think back to the 58th minute of Sunday night’s defeat to the Colorado Rapids. Newly acquired Rapids midfielder Martin Rivero hits a long ball towards the Fire’s left-hand corner for Brian Mullan to chase. Clearly tired and lacking the pace needed to catch Mullan, Gonzalo Segares lags several yards behind and cannot prevent the Colorado veteran from reaching the ball, looking up and examining his options, and finding Omar Cummings unmarked in the center of the box with acres of space. 1-0 to the home side.
My problem with this goal doesn’t even lie with Segares, apart from his lack of effort to stop the cross, but the main culprits for this goal are the Fire’s center-backs: Cory Gibbs and Jalil Anibaba. The pair have built a formidable defensive partnership together, but they simply weren’t at their best on Sunday. The image below portrays just how much space they left for Cummings, a type of sin when committed in one’s own penalty box.
Omar Cummings finds himself in acres of space for Colorado's opening goal against the Fire on Sunday.
But is defense really the main problem for the Chicago Fire and the main area for Frank Klopas to address before Houston’s visit to Toyota Park on April 15th? I’m not convinced. Continue reading
With the news that Logan Pause will miss Saturday night’s match against the Colorado Rapids with a hamstring strain, Carlos de los Cobos has hinted that Daniel Paladini will most likely earn his first league start in a Chicago Fire uniform. After giving Baggio Husidic his first start of the season against Houston last weekend, de los Cobos is finally giving way for more attacking options in central midfield. Whether it is his choice is a different matter, however, as Pause’s injury has left the Fire with Husidic, Paladini and Mike Videira as the only realistic CM options.
Husidic provided much needed attacking impetus in the final third of the pitch against the Dynamo and was a breath of fresh air after several lackluster attacking displays with Pause and Videira in the middle. The inclusion of Palidini will offer more attacking options for the Fire and provide the team with a weapon from set-pieces, an area the Fire have struggled with so far this season.
Paladini is capable of playing from box to box and has a knack for making an impact on the attacking end of things. After all, he was named the North American Soccer League Offensive Player of the Year in 2010 for his impressive play with the Carolina Railhawks. If he can replicate those performances for the Fire, beginning with Saturday’s match, the Fire could finally begin to see a change of fortunes.
Paladini and Husidic is obviously an untested partnership, but as long as the Fire’s defense can keep it tight in the back and allow both players with the freedom to alternate going forward, the Fire could cause Colorado problems. Both players will need to be aware of their role and ensure they know to stay further back when the other goes forward. Videira would be the defensive-minded choice, as well as the cautious one. But with four matches without a win, de los Cobos needs to be willing to take a risk in order to get his team back to winning ways. Maybe, just maybe, Paladini and Husidic are the answer.